Icelandic hotel chain, Center Hotels, has hired international branding and customer experience agency I-AM to launch a bold group-wide re-brand to reinforce their position as the most loved hotel group in Iceland and beyond.

With the entrance of various international chains intensifying the increasingly competitive Icelandic market, Center Hotels decided it was time to enhance and futureproof their brand. Being a family business, one of the key goals was for the new brand to better capture the family values and human side of the company.

Other key objectives included further increasing their market share, predominantly by differentiating themselves from other hotel brands in Reykjavik, and enriching the overall guest experience.

“We feel fortunate to be working with I-AM London Studio across a full rebrand of the chain. The collaboration has been a wonderful journey and we are incredibly proud of the first fruit of our labour Center Hotel Laugavegur, Stökk grab & go and Lóa Bar & Bistro, all of which have exceeded our expectations with record sales since the launch.” Sara Kristófersdóttir CCO of Center Hotels

Strategising the Proposition

The project began with workshops designed to help Center Hotels analyse the scope of their proposition, assess the personality of their brand and the profiles of their customers. With all of the groups’ hotels based in central Reykjavik, there was a clear need to create distinction between their 7, soon to be 8, locations and to differentiate the offers accordingly.  Consequently, as part of our strategic work, we have developed a new brand architecture which splits the hotels into two tiers – standard and endorsed.

Acting as destinations in their own right and each with their own personality, the Endorsed Hotels, offer an elevated, boutique experience supported by additional services and premium facilities. Conversely, the Standard Hotels provide the purest brand experience, focused on a younger, price-conscious customer whilst still remaining accessible for all. The first physical representation of this new vision for the standard tier – Center Hotels Laugavegur – opened in the summer.

Center Hotels New Brand Story

The new brand is based around the philosophy of ‘Staying like a local’ by giving a real insight into the heart of the city, the spirit of the people and the soul of Iceland.

This approach became the foundation for the brand messaging and filtered into all aspects of its personality; from being welcoming, sociable and creative, to being a proud, community-focused, family-owned company, I-AM extracted these values to develop the brand purpose and help shape the design. Thus, giving guests an authentic Icelandic experience with the personality and sense of home that international chains are unable to provide.

The Re-imagined Hotel Brand

The group-wide rebrand included a new logo design for the master brand, which was designed to feel more youthful and welcoming, along with individual logos for each of their endorsed hotel brands. The Circle became a key element of the brand, representing their city centre locations and also acting as a viewfinder into local life and creativity.

Iceland has a unique culture, language and personality which was essential to communicate in the brand so we developed an ownable tone of voice which was bold, inspiring, and proud – just like Icelanders themselves.

Local storytelling is communicated through two juxtaposed fonts, which play off against each other in personality. Emotive language is written in a script font to reflect the brand’s personality and its people-first approach whilst functional and call to action messaging is delivered in a condensed font to communicate information clearly.

Center Hotels Laugaveur, which opened in July 2019, is the first physical representation of the new brand. I-AM designed a memorable customers focused experience across this 102-room hotel which included a lounge lobby, bar & bistro and grab & go offer. There are ‘Stay like a local’ touchpoints throughout the hotel – providing guests with lots of insight into the city and beyond. This extends to the inclusion and promotion of local artists throughout the space.

Alongside the physical experience, I-AM also designed a range of printed brand collateral that is friendly and approachable, whilst also being inspiring and informative. This is all supported by hotel collateral such as staff uniforms, soft interior furnishings, bedroom accessories and branded marketing giveaways.

In regard to the online brand application, I-AM developed a social media content strategy, marketing email templates and promotional content as well as a new website that ensures a memorable first impression. They began the design of the website by building a site map to ensure a seamless and coherent digital customer journey; it was important that the site enabled users to browse the entire Center Hotels estate, from hotels and restaurants to spas and gyms, as well as to book their stay. After developing wireframes for key pages, I-AM applied the Center Hotels brand to the website framework and then coordinated with the website developers to create the final site. Within this project the branding experts also managed the creation of copywriting and content, in the form of film and photography, in order to ensure the new brand position was reflected throughout the site’s tone of voice and visual language.

Together, the new assets capture the essence of Reykjavik and its social atmosphere, taking guests on an inspirational journey of things to see, do and experience both within the city and beyond, so they can truly ‘Stay like a local’.

A Targeted Brand Launch Strategy

Following the new brand story, I-AM worked with Center Hotels to create a marketing strategy that directly engages with selected audiences; inviting and encouraging them to participate in the evolution of the Center Hotels brand experience. This involved brand activations to help create awareness, all led by their new USP and their diverse audiences’ needs. They agreed that change starts from within and members of the Center Hotel team are the greatest asset as advocates. Therefore, the internal approach focuses on initiatives that immerse the sales team in the new brand world, from a digital brand presentation to various brand assets and a sampling of the new restaurant’s menu. I-AM also wanted to engage with the locals as the goal of the rebrand was to be the top recommended hotel, synonymous with Iceland and its culture. They suggested a mix of physical and digital activities, including guerrilla marketing, local competitions and creative initiatives tapping into art, music and local partnerships.

As for global business partners, the objective was to claim the new brand proposition. This translated into the creation of an engaging and interactive trade show stand, with an impactful installation and experiential elements all in tune with the latest identity. The final segment was the end consumer for which the target was to generate conversations, gain credibility across the rebranded identity and grow an authentic follower base. To capture their attention, I-AM worked largely on digital channels, with the new website design and curated social media content based on the essence of ‘staying like a local’.

Along with the ongoing rollout of their new identity across their different sites, Center Hotels undertook a launch showcasing the new brand applied across physical and digital touchpoints.